If an Anglican has Roman fever and admits it to another Anglican, the answer is common: “Got Roman fever? Go to a Catholic Mass. It will cure you instantly!”
So now that I’m a Catholic, Anglicans/Episcopalians feel compelled to ask, “So how’s the liturgy?”
As an Episcopal priest, I surely loved the reverent liturgy and music. I loved standing at the altar and hearing glorious polyphonic chant swirling around me. Coming from this context, I knew from what I had heard, that Catholic liturgy and music were, well, sub par.
I am very glad to say that this has not been my experience as a Catholic. In Fort Worth at St Patrick’s Cathedral (where I was received) they have all altarboys (no “girl altarboys”), organ, and choral music from the loft. They used Latin (e.g. the Agnus Dei) and the celebration was reverent.
We attend now attend the Catholic parish only three blocks from our house. I’ve only seen a lay eucharistic minister once and that a man in a suit. The vestments are beautiful. The chalices and tabernacle are gorgeous. The tabernacle is centered. The only problem is the building is in the round. Though the pastor and priest have done all they can make the place reverent. (One bonus of in-the-round parishes is that you can sit in the ad orientem side and look at the priest’s back or sit on the other side and look at the priest in the face.) The pastor wears a biretta.
Last week for Corpus Christi, the preaching priest even dropped plugs for “communion on the tongue”, confession, Eucharistic adoration, and dressing nice for the Eucharistic king at Mass.
The week before I was received my family went to St Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth. Very beautiful choral music. Better than what you would hear in most Episcopal parishes. The priest intoned everything and the deacon (I think) intoned the general intercessions of the people.
We stopped in S. Carolina at Holy Spirit parish (formerly pastored by ex-Episcopal priest Fr Jim Parker). Again, nice. The priest even chastised the laity for not being more evangelistic like their Evangelical brethren.
Of course the Catholic Information Center in D.C. where I work is very reverent and beautiful. So far, I haven’t encountered any strange sermons, heretical teachings, irreverence, or felt chasubles. I will say that generally the music could be better and I am still a little startled when I see people leaving the pews before the recessional hymn. But mostly I am pleased. And I think things will improve even more once the new translation of the Mass is put in place.
I’d be interested to hear your own experiences of the Catholic liturgy in America – especially from those who were once Anglican.